Contending that pro-democracy icon Aung San Sui Kyi's time "had come and gone," an Indian officer told a US diplomat in 2004 that democracy in Myanmar could be encouraged only through greater engagement with the ruling military regime.
According to a US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had himself raised the issue of democracy with Myanmar's military leader Than Shwe during the latter's visit to New Delhi.
In a meeting with US Embassy officials, the Joint Secretary, South East Asia, Mitra Vashishta said that India would welcome US suggestions on how to best to promote democracy in Myanmar.
Asserting that sanctions had only isolated the country, she said if India also isolates Myanmar, "no one will be able to engage Rangoon on democracy or other issues".
Expressing concern about Chinese influence in Myanmar, Vashishta said that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been "learning from the master about how to hoodwink the international community" on human rights.
He said India had agreed to provide grants and limited military equipment to Rangon in an attempt to encourage cooperation against anti-India insurgents located along the Indo-Burma border.
"However, there are no Indian plans to conduct joint military operations with the junta," said the cable.
The US has accused WikiLeaks of stealing its secret cables, but had neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of these cables.
"The decision to encourage democracy in Rangoon reflects the GOI belief that India is best placed to help Burma reform, that Aung San Suu Kyi's 'time has come and gone,' and that democracy will take root in Burma only through greater engagement and people-to-people ties," the cable said.
Democracy topped India's agenda for the October 24-29 visit of Than Shwe, Vashishta was quoted as saying on November 1.
Prime Minister Singh himself raised the issue with Than Shwe "in a much more intense way than could be expressed" in the media, she said, noting that India had decided to take this up with its neighbouring country despite "potentially negative consequences for the relationship".
According to Vashishta, democracy in Burma is too closely linked with the greatly respected Aung San Sui Kyi (ASSK), whose "day has come and gone".
She said Than Shwe had expressed a commitment to democracy during the visit, and speculated that he would be more apt to bring about democratic reform if he could do so without losing face.
The cable does not say if the meeting between the US and Indian diplomats was official or was an unofficial conversation.